Branagh's Celebrity Turn
Online News, June 13
by Sarah Aldous
Kenneth Branagh might be more
at home with Shakespeare, but he has cast the Bard aside to star
in Woody Allen's latest film, Celebrity.
He plays a fame-hungry journalist
in the production, but unlike his screen counterpart, Branagh
has his feet firmly on the ground.
"As far as celebrity goes,
I try not to get too caught up in it," Kenneth Branagh tells
BBC News Online, still charming as the umpteenth press interview
of the day kicks off.
"It's possible to find a
normal way through it somehow," he adds while admitting
that it does have its advantages.
"Woody Allen proclaims the
best thing about it is being able to jump the queue at restaurants.
I don't know whether I approve of that quite frankly, but it
does have its benefits."
Branagh directed, produced, wrote
and starred in HamletFor 38-year-old Kenneth Branagh, the rise
to fame has been meteoric.
At 23 the Belfast-born boy became
the Royal Shakespeare Company's youngest-ever Henry V, which
he followed with the foundation of his own Renaissance Theatre
Company and a string of theatre and film successes.
But for Branagh, the ultimate
upside of celebrity is being able to pursue his creative dreams.
"In my case it's helped
enormously with the degree of opportunity I've had to do things
I care about that are difficult to do, like Shakespeare films,"
"I've never been one who
has an interest in acquiring huge sums of money. The only time
I had loads of money I used it to bankroll a picture."
But as an actor, writer, director
and producer of everything from Hollywood movies to low-budget
British comedies, Branagh has faced a barrage of criticism along
He is well-accustomed to "Branagh
bashing" in the great British press, which reached fever
pitch after his split with former wife Emma Thompson.
The press continue to hound him
for details of his current relationship with Helena Bonham Carter,
but Branagh takes it in his stride.
"Sometimes you get irritated
if it's very personal and vindictive, and you want to give somebody
a punch - that feeling lasts for about three seconds and then
you get on with your life.
"It's just part and parcel
of what we do and you come to a strange acceptance of it. If
you don't like that stuff you shouldn't be in the business."
Branagh tries his charms on a
young starlet in CelebritySuch realism is sadly lacking in Branagh's
latest on-screen character, Lee Simon, who is about to hit our
screens in Woody Allen's Celebrity.
Simon is desperately seeking
stardom, but never quite pulls it off. Instead he repeatedly
humiliates himself in the company of a bevy of beautiful young
things including Winona Ryder, Charlize Theron, Melanie Griffith
and young heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio.
If this sounds like familiar
Woody Allen territory, Branagh says: "When Woody asked me
to take the role, he did talk about it being the part he probably
would have played if he was about 20 years younger."
But Branagh maintains that Woody
Allen's screen persona is quite unlike the man himself.
"In life by contrast he's
very unassuming and seemingly unneurotic, undeniably very shy,
but without any of the sort of obvious anxiety or kind of frenetic
energy that his on-screen persona has."
Branagh also shares a common
musical interest with Woody Allen, but claims that we are unlikely
to ever catch his own band, The Fishmongers, gracing the stage.
"It's entirely a private
thing based on utter realism about the quality of the group's
work," says Branagh, singer and guitarist for the band.
"It's simply not something
that should be allowed to invade the earspace of anyone other
than my closet friends."
Instead Kenneth Branagh plans
to return to his Shakespearean roots this summer, for an all-singing
and dancing production of Love's Labours Lost and a film version
of Macbeth, after which the sky is the limit.
"By no means do I feel like
I've accomplished everything I wanted to do," says Kenneth
Branagh, "I'm an onwards and upwards kind of a guy."
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